Today, on Shrove Tuesday, I am reposting the first of the weekly series in which you can hear me read aloud the poems I chose for my Lent Anthology The Word in the Wilderness. In the book itself you can read my commentary on each poem but I thought the recordings of my reading them might be useful, especially to groups who are using the book together.Where copyright allows I will also post the texts of the poems themselves here. Once more I am grateful to Lancia Smith who will be providing specially made images for these weekly posts. Lancia has told me that today’s image of the shell suggests a sense of our being ‘cleansed and emptied of what we once carried now waiting for a new day of our own’. But there is also of course the other sense in which the scallop shell is a symbol of pilgrimage, and pilgrimage is very much the central theme of this book.
Speaking of images that arise from this poetry you might like to know that there is now a Facebook Group Sounding the Sonnets which has some lovely galleries of art they have made in response to the poems in this and my other books.
As always you can hear me read the poems either by clicking on the title or on the ‘play’ button.
Today’s post takes us from Shrove Tuesday through to Saturday, the next post in this series will be on the first Sunday in Lent.
So here, first is the poem set for Shrove Tuesday, Seamus Heaney’s beautiful eleventh poem in the sequence Station Island:
Station Island XI Seamus Heaney/St. John of the Cross
And here is my sonnet for Ash Wednesday
Receive this cross of ash upon your brow,
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross.
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their hands
The very stones themselves would shout and sing
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognise in Christ their Lord and king.
He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you please,
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.
On the Pinnacle
‘Temples and Spires are good for looking down from;
You stand above the world on holy heights,
Here on the pinnacle, above the maelstrom,
Among the few, the true, unearthly lights.
Here you can breathe the thin air of perfection
And feel your kinship with the lonely star,
Above the shadow and the pale reflection,
Here you can know for certain who you are.
The world is stalled below, but you could move it
If they could know you as you are up here,
Of course they’ll doubt, but here’s your chance to prove it
Angels will bear you up, so have no fear….’
‘I was not sent to look down from above
It’s fear that sets these tests and proofs, not Love.’
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11 responses to “Shriven, Ashed, and ready for Action”
Reblogged this on Life Matters and commented:
Malcolm Guite reminds us of Seamus Heaney’s advice to “read poems as prayers.” Even better is to hear them read to us. I especially enjoy Malcolm’s reading of his poem below “All the Kingdoms of the World.”
Sadly the links are taking me to page not found?
Love your poetry btw. Have just ordered my 3rd book!!
Just use the ‘play’ buttons rather than the hyperlinks and you should be able to hear me read the poems
Thank you for this! The link to the text for Tuesday (Heaney) as well as your link for Wed (though the text is included here) are not working. I did find Heaney’s poem, so I was able to read along with your recording…in the company of a new-to-me Peterson XL302!
And it was wonderful to meet you at Square Halo. Your talks were captivating. They were, however, not recorded. I would love to revisit them. I would imagine that you’ve delivered similar talks before. Are there recordings of similar talks available?
Thanks. Sorry about the misfiring links the texts, as well as my commentary are of course all in the book if you are able to get that. These posts are really intended to accompany and complement that book M
Beautiful sonnet for Ash Wednesday, thank you. May we use it in a church Lent study? And also Refugee? Thanks for letting me know.
Thanks. Yes that’s fine
Thank you for these beautiful sonnets. They are masterful.
“Love is the waking life, you are the dream.” Yes, and Amen! Let my life be rooted in this truth. May I meet my own temptations with this clarity and decisiveness.
Thank you for these words and the reminder that though Satan buffet, Jesus laughs.